Inspired by Life

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Living in Washington, DC, offers some unique opportunities such as attending the Chinese New Year Celebrations hosted by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs Office at the National Building Museum. Aaron was invited to attend and I got to go along. I don't usually go to Capitol Hill receptions and you can find one every week. But this one was an annual celebration and Aaron asked me well in advance. :)

Surprisingly, it was a breeze to get to the city—it took me a mere 25 minutes! Valet parking was great and I was in before Aaron got there. I had never been to the National Building Museum before, although it is on my never-ending list of places to visit in DC. It was an impressive building with massive pillars reaching toward the sky, and decked out in red lights and big screens and buffet tables everywhere. I picked a good one to attend!

Banana Bars w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

You know, when you see a 'good deal' at the grocery store, you are tempted to stock up on it. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes, not so much. In my case, I am sure it was a good thing for Aaron :) I sent him to the store to get some milk and eggs. If you know Aaron, you will know that no matter what I send him to the store for, he will inevitably return with half a fruit orchard. Said fruit is consumed, or rather, inhaled, at an astonishing pace by Aaron. This leads to the purchase of more fruit. 

Okay, so. Aaron sees a 'good deal' for bananas at 33 cents a pound. Great deal, if you ask me. But I am not so sure it was the best idea to buy several pounds of these bananas just because it was a good deal. Even at his consumption rate, we ended up with a huge pile of bananas that went ripe really fast and my whole house smelled of overripe bananas. I had to do something!  Although, this recipe only called for 4 ripe bananas, I felt I was making some headway in reducing the pile a little bit. That being said, this was easy to make and the banana bars were delicious! 

Here's the recipe. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Writing Exercise - Self-Imposed

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”  ― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

My writing, however, tends to stop right after its first terrible effort :) I have realized over the course of "writing" this blog that I have steadily veered away from actual writing and willingly substituted it with photography, another great passion of mine. Note, I said 'passion' as I am by no means a professional in that realm.  In a blog post, ages ago, I talked about my fascination with words and books and now recognize that I have relaxed in my efforts to express myself appropriately in the written form more often. 

In order to right this wrong, I am imposing a writing exercise upon myself for the month of March. Much like the NaNoWriMo method, only I am not writing a novel, so I couldn't come up with a cool name for this effort.  I still haven't figured out the details but knew that I should post it publicly somewhere before I talk myself out of it—something I do with ease at the initial presentation of a difficult task, mostly associated with going to the gym :) I picked some books off my shelf to help jumpstart this process. Don't mind the Goodwill stickers on my book. If you have the addiction I do to books, you know that buying books could become quite an expensive affair! So I try to keep my addiction costs low, much to the relief of my husband, who believes we have more bookshelves than any other type of furniture in the house. And, he is right. 

This will be my third time reading Muriel Barbery's Elegance of a Hedgehog, and I am not ashamed that I used another excuse to read it again. It is that good! Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is one of my favorite books on writing and one of the first ones I had read in my Creative Writing class. My professor made those words jump of the page and into my imagination.  Don't you love when a teacher inspires a passion in you? Isn't that what teaching is all about?

I will quit rambling and only say this: Please do not be upset if, every once in a while, I write more and use less (maybe one or two less) photographs in my blog posts. If I don't do this, pretty soon, and I mean, sooner than I think, my writing will be reduced to one-line descriptions of photographs. You get the picture. 



*UPDATE: Right after this post, I decided I would write 1000 words daily on any topic that comes into my head. Right then, a topic and three of the first lines creeped into my head. Right there, (I like using the word 'right' right now) I pulled up a blank page and fired off everything I could think of that I wanted to say on that topic, drawing inspiration from childhood memories. I stopped when I was done. 45 minutes. 1200 words. First draft and first assignment complete! How cool is that? 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Great Falls, VA

It was gorgeous and sunny earlier today, so to make the best of it, Aaron and I decided to take in the beauty of nature that surrounds us. We live about thirty minutes away from Great Falls, VA, and have never visited it before, even though it has been on my list of places to see for a while. So, when Aaron suggested a spontaneous trip to Great Falls, I jumped at the chance! We were not disappointed!

The thunderous sound of the waterfalls was enough to get me excited but nothing prepared me for what I saw above. It was beautiful! Only 15 minutes from DC and situated in an 800-acre park, Great Falls provides many opportunities to commune with nature. In the olden days, people used to visit the falls via trolley and stay for dinner, dancing and night-time viewing of the falls was a favorite activity.

The park has three overlook points with stunning views! Take a look! Disclaimer: This is a post LOADED with photos. What a surprise, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The National Gallery of Art - West Building

Not to be outdone by the priceless works of art it contains, the actual building which is the National Gallery of Art commands its own following.  The National Gallery of Art was established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of Congress. Financier Andrew W. Mellon donated quite a large share of funds and art collections. Most of the collections that I fell in love with were donated by the Mellons.

Andrew Mellon began his private collection of the old masters sculptures and paintings during the First World War but then decided to change focus a bit and and create a new national gallery in the US. As I was doing some research on the background and history of the building, I found some interesting facts. In 1937, Andrew Mellon formally announced that he was going to create a new, self-governing gallery that was to be separate from the Smithsonian. This announcement was postponed a bit due to his tax evasion trial. This building however took its old name "National Gallery of Art' while the Smithsonian's already existing gallery would take on a different name. It is now known as the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

National Gallery of Art - Michelangelo's David-Apollo

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” 

― Michelangelo Buonarroti

What an awesome quote! I can see it finding a place in a picture frame in my house soon :) Well, yesterday was a day of firsts for me in the art world.  For the first time, I experienced an original Leonardo da Vinci painting,  soaked in a plethora of Monet's works, and got to see this original, unfinished sculpture but the great Michelangelo himself! 

National Gallery of Art - Monet

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” 

The Artist's Garden in Argenteuil
(A Corner of the Garden with Dahlias)
oil on canvas   c 1873
French, 1840-1926

I am so glad that Monet said it was simply necessary to love his art not to understand it. I will be first to admit that I do not know the first thing about art. But after my trip to the National Gallery of Art yesterday and viewing an original Leonardo da Vinci painting for the first time, I want to learn more! It had a powerful effect on me and I loved spending time looking at these gorgeous Monet paintings later in the day. 

National Gallery of Art - Ginerva de' Benci

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” 

After viewing Leonardo's original work for the first time yesterday, I could not agree more!  Visiting the National Gallery of Art has been on my list of things to do for a very long time, and somehow, it never happens. Yesterday, after looking at my planner and seeing the number of times I had penned this visit in and never made it, I decided I was going to do this now. So, in two hours (Yes, it takes me a while to get myself out of the house sometimes. Gosh, I wonder how it will be once I have kids!), I was dressed and ready and left the house. 

I set out with a list of exhibitions I wanted to see and this was one of them. Before I go on, I would like to say that the moment I laid eyes on this painting, I was deeply moved. I had never known art to do that to me before—not in such a powerful way! This being the very first exhibit I viewed, it set the tone for the rest of my day at the gallery and I was awash in wonder and awe and beauty of the amazing painters and artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and many more. I soaked this all in and realized that I could spend a long time just looking at one painting. Good thing Aaron did not come with me - he would have been too fidgety :) 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Virginia State Capitol

Look familiar? Yes, it looks just like the White House, doesn't it? This building, designed by Thomas Jefferson and built in 1788, had served as the the prototype for other numerous capitols, courthouses, churches and museums for over 200 years! It was also the first public building in the New World that was built in the classical monumental style. 

The Bell Tower

On the corner of Franklin and Ninth stands the Bell Tower—strong and steadfast. It has stood there since it was built in 1824. It was used as a guard house and warned people of any fires. During the Civil War, the bell was sounded whenever Federal troops were spotted nearing the city.  It has served as an office to a Governor and to the Capitol Square Preservation Council. Now, it houses the Visitor Center for Virginia Tourism.

Monument Avenue

Stonewall Jackson
Once we were done exploring the Historical Society, we drove two blocks up and found a place to park with this monument in our view. I contemplated walking up and down Monument Avenue to take pictures of all the monuments, got out of the car, and quickly retracted that idea. It was too windy for a jolly jaunt. So after snapping this quick shot, I had Aaron drive me around, so I could get out and take pictures :) Poor guy - he never got to see any of the monuments except one. What a sweet husband!

I love living in Virginia! It is jam-packed with history, it is practically in the air that we breathe! You don't have to go far to appreciate this history. So, back to Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA. This grand avenue was discovered during a site search for the statue of General Robert E. Lee after his death  in 1870.

Making The Murals

Yesterday, Aaron and I decided to visit Richmond, VA. We live only an hour and a half away and had never explored it before. Always up for a spontaneous road trip, we set off at 11am, happily singing along to Juanes in the car. The weather was lovely - sunny, a bit chilly but not too bad at all (I was in a t-shirt and jeans and no jacket in the middle of February!) Perfect road trip weather, I must say! 

Our first stop was the Virginia Historical Society Richmond Museum. There were two cars in the parking area, so we knew we could have the place to ourselves. A sweet old woman greeted us as we walked in, and immediately took us to a side of the museum that was glassed off and had some wall-to-ceiling murals that had been taped up and partly covered. She explained to us that this part of the museum was undergoing some restoration, and then proceeded to tell us that they were 100-year military murals that had been covered by dust, coal, and smoke, as smoking was allowed in buildings back then.  She seemed impressed that the restorers were doing their jobs by cleaning the murals with what looked like Q-tips :) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To my Darling Husband on our 3rd Anniversary

"What really matters is that he will love you, that he will respect you, that he will honor you, that he will be absolutely true to you, that he will give you the freedom of expression and let you fly in the development of your own talents. He is not going to be perfect, but if he is kind and thoughtful, if he knows how to work and earn a living, if he is honest and full of faith, the chances are you will not go wrong, that you will be immensely happy.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley

Happy Anniversary, my darling Aaron Taylor! Thank you for making me immensely happy! I love you.